I pulled the plugs and completed the compression test on Friday, which turned out to be mostly good news. The plugs came out looking good–clean with no fouling. Their was no indication of a blown gasket, though there was slightly higher than normal variance between the highest and lowest readings.
Overall, I certainly didn’t find anything that would make me want to pull the engine and take it apart this summer. (In a year or two, maybe.) I’ll be returning to my regularly scheduled plan of action for this summer, rebuilding the dashboard and (if there’s time) replacing the bushings in the rear springs.
I will, though, be keeping a closer eye on the coolant than I had. Checking it early this week, it was completely full, even after a couple of longish drives, including some stretches at speed on the freeway. For now, I’m assuming that the overheating I had was simply a case of a hot day and lots of time at idle. An electric fan would likely solve the problem for good, and it’s something I’m considering.
Before that, though, I will be replacing the harmonic balancer. Mine is old, and there were far too many stories on-line showing overheated cars with the balancer in pieces.
People must have thought I was driving a coal-powered car. Waiting at a drive-through on a warm day, steam started venting from the overflow pipe, accompanied by a loud, low moan from the relief valve.
And I thought the squeaky suspension was embarassing.
I let the engine cool a while and made it home, finally coming to a stop in the driveway where steam continued to vent for some time, enveloping the car and drifting majestically up and over the neighbor’s house. I refilled the radiator–it didn’t take much–and for the next few days couldn’t drive more than a mile or two without overheating the car.
I thought I was dealing with a bad radiator cap–one that just wouldn’t hold pressure, but in the end the coolant level was just too low, and had apparently been falling for some time.
I filled the system completely about a year ago when the new water pump went in. Though some loss is expected over time, I’m going through it too quickly.
The possible reasons are not numerous, and generally not good. Best case scenario is that maybe it wasn’t filled all the way up in the beginning and wasn’t able to handle a warm day. Barring that, a blown head gasket is the next most likely culprit for missing coolant.
Replacing a head gasket is not an expensive proposition if you do it yourself, but it’s heavy time consuming work. (The engine generally needs to come out.) The first step, though, is to test the compression to see if the gasket is indeed the problem.
I’ve been driving with the seat in it’s “new, improved” position for about a week now. The rake is much more upright, which is taking some getting used to, but the additional height is excellent. Before, it was hard to see the turn indicators for the windshield wipers in the way. Also, the seat just looks better up off the floor and not resting against the back seat.
With that done, I took the day on Sunday to polish up the rear wheels, do a thorough clean, then a painstaking wax job. Took her out today for a few errands and stopped at the waterfront for some snapshots. First time in over a year that I actually took the time to photograph the whole car, not just parts.